The Gender Pay Gap Explored


The Gender Pay Gap has been a popular topic in recent years and the research about it has substantially increased. It came under more scrutiny after BBC’s China Editor, Carrie Gracie (pictured below), resigned, accusing broadcasters of an illegal pay culture which discriminates against women.

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Indeed, Iceland has become the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women, in a move to completely eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022. In comparison, the United Kingdom still had more than a 20% difference in pay based on gender in 2014. Moreover, in January 2018 the Office for National Statistics published that the gender pay gap for full-time workers was entirely in favour of men for all occupations. But why is that?

First, the pay gap will not be the same depending on the age group of the workers. Indeed, with the same qualification men and women will start with roughly the same salary. It is only increased when people advance in their job. Overall, women’s pay grows less than men’s and stops growing earlier than men’s pay, according to the newest results of the Office for National Statistics.

The Office further stated that while 36.1% of the difference in wages can be explained by differences in characteristics, for instance occupations, and that 9.1% can be explained by the difference in working patterns, as men are more likely to work full-time than women, a substantial 63.9% of the gap cannot be explained. This cannot be fully explained by culture too. Indeed, Northern Ireland has a gender pay gap below 0, meaning that women earn more than men on average. Yet, the fact that more women work in the public sector which pays more, rather than private sector, where men dominate the workplace, is one factor of this strange figure.

Furthermore, it has recently been announced that women in the UK are losing out on £140bn a year due to the gender pay gap and one woman will miss out on an average of £9,112 each year. The information emerged after the government published results on the first 527 firms on the salary difference between male and female employees. Indeed, 500 of the UK’s largest companies still works on a large gender pay gap basis. For instance, men are earning 53% more per hour in the budget airline company Easy Jet.

This seems quite unjustified, considering an Equal Pay Act was passed in 1970 in Parliament which prohibited less favourable treatment between men and women. The same act was superseded in 2010 with the Equality Act, comprising now differences in races, religion, sexual orientation and age.

The survival of the gender pay gap is even more surprising as more than half of new university graduates are women, but they still are a minority in mathematics, computer sciences and engineering, the degrees with the top earning potential. Indeed, in European countries women are substantially more educated than men, according to the World Economic Forum, yet it doesn’t mean it’s translating into earnings later on.

Another factor is that women have been offered fewer opportunities in managerial and seniors positions, as well as in political positions. In part of ‘Women in the Labour Market’, in 2012, only a third of senior managerial roles were taken by women in the UK, placing it just above the EU average.

Furthermore, only 65.8% of women choose to work while having a young child, explained partly by the lack of part-time jobs opportunities in countries such as the UK, but also by the parental leave policies specific to each country. Those policies don’t only depend on their leave length but also on the percentage of wages paid. Indeed, in the UK women can have a 52-week maternity leave, but only 39% of them are actually paid for the full amount of time. On average women in the UK receive only 90% of their average weekly income in the first six weeks, after which it decreases.

Politicians have been trying to close the gap. Indeed, Prime Minister Theresa May asked smaller firms to disclose their pay details after the government introduced a legal requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on their gender pay and bonuses in April. The Prime Minister has also urged companies to help women progress in managerial roles so as to ensure better female representation at senior levels.

Still, with more policies such as those found in the Scandinavian country of Iceland, the UK could close the gender pay gap. Last year, newspapers said that the pay gap probably won’t be resolved for another 170 years. Yet, Iceland has taken the step forward to do something about it. While the Prime Minister is requiring firms to publish their data, no legal action is set for those discriminating women. This might be a step in the right direction, but there is still little equality in the matter. A radical change of mind needs to be attained, before we have true opportunities and equality.


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